The Azores is one of the best places in the world for whale watching, with a strong cultural connection to whales. While there are some 25 species of whales in the archipelago, the mammoth sperm whale – forever immortalized as “Moby Dick” – is the most common.
We chose to go out to find whales and dolphins with Futurismo, one of the most experienced and responsible ecotourism outfits, based in Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel. The staff of Futurismo are nature lovers engaged in studying and preserving the environment and everything living in it.
Before heading out to sea, we listened to a briefing by Miranda, one of the marine biologists, who explained how Futurismo was one of the first companies responsible for the transition from whale hunting to whale watching. She also talked about safety measures, respect for the animals, and rules for observation.
Futurismo is very conscientious about being non-obtrusive on their watch tours, complying with the WCA (World Cetacean Alliance) established minimum standards. During observation in the animals’ natural habitat, they strictly forbid chasing after whales or dolphins, disturbing, isolating or feeding the fascinating animals. If any of the animals appear agitated or stressed by the observation vessel, the distance between the vessel and animal is increased or they exit the area. If one of the animals approaches the vessel, the engine is idled.
Out to Sea
After donning our über-fashionable fishermen-style raincoats and heavy, baggy rain pants, we boarded our boat to begin our search for the cetaceans. Because of its location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe, the Azores is a passage point for about a third of the world’s whale species.
Launching out to sea, we were treated to a picturesque view of the shore from our boat. We also learned from Miranda, who was also our on-board guide, that Futurismo also uses onshore lookouts to locate the animals to reduce searching time and reduce fuel consumption.
Read the rest about why whale watching is a great way to experience wildlife in the Azores in Epicure and Culture.